I was interviewed by Graceann Robertson of EC-OG about Next Generation Mentoring. Fantastic chat about a subject not often discussed: What is the role of mentoring in career development? How does it change? And should we care about the future of mentoring in Aberdeen?
Full Transcript of Mentoring Podcast
The following is a transcript of a conversation between myself and Yekemi Otaru, Managing Director of YO! Marketing, about the Next Generation of Mentoring.
Hello and welcome to this podcast today.
I’m Graceann and I’m joined by Yekemi Otaru who is an engineer turned marketer and she is now managing director of her own company – YO! Marketing.
She was recently named on the Scottish Business News 40 UNDER 40 list, and is here today to talk with me about a subject close to my own heart, mentoring.
It is something that has become quite apparent to me especially in Aberdeen. Recently, we had the joint event from IChemE, IMechE, SPE, the EIYPN (and all of the other letters under the sun!). That event was really focusing on young professionals in Aberdeen and looking to the future of the North East. It got me thinking about my own experience of mentoring. Yekemi is here today to talk about the impact mentoring has had in her career.
Thanks for having me Graceann, I’m really looking forward to the chat. Mentoring is also something very dear to my heart. It’s helped me throughout different stages of my career.
Excellent. Would you be able to tell me a little bit more about how mentoring specifically helped you in your career so far?
Yes. At the beginning of my career, I didn’t have a lot of mentoring. I didn’t understand the role that mentoring could play as a young graduate. But as I developed in companies such as Schlumberger and General Electric, I started to have internal mentors who were usually senior managers or executives within the organisation. They were really there to guide and to provide you with a set of skills that you needed to succeed. If you wanted to get promoted, if you wanted more responsibility and skills like ‘How do I manage a team?’, ‘How do I pitch an idea to a senior manager?’. It was really really good for that.
But now, 12 years into my career, I’m working for myself and I feel like I need a different type of mentoring. That’s why I’ve gotten an external mentor now. Rob Cowman, who is now my mentor through the Aberdeen Young Professionals programme, has been really valuable. And just having an external pair of eyes to guide me to help reach where I wasn’t able to reach in my career currently.
Excellent. So you mentioned a little bit there about your mentor Robert Cowman, who works at EC-OG and that’s how we know each other isn’t it? Through Rob and his involvement in the AYP mentoring scheme. Can you tell me more about what attracted you to get involved in the AYP mentoring scheme?
Yes, it was the first time that I had gone outside an organisation to get a mentor. You know, like I said, earlier on in my career, most of my mentors where within the organisation. And I feel like sometimes when you have a mentor within an organisation, they are great for guiding you as long as you are within that organisation. But if you want an external pair of eyes, you need to go outside that organisation.
For instance, if you’ve got a marketing director as your mentor and you are the marketing manager or marketing intern and you want to do something different maybe look at commercial roles or finance roles, there is a tendency that that mentor will try and keep you within that function and indeed within that company. I felt that at that point in my career, which was last year, that I really wanted an external mentor who could guide me in terms of where I wanted to get to for personal development regardless of the company I worked for. So I looked to AYP (that’s the Aberdeen Young Professionals scheme) as a place where I could really get an expert that could be a real role model and a mentor.
Good stuff. For me, I think coming into EC-OG as an intern, I was able to experience a certain form of mentoring. You’ve said previously that there are different types of mentoring. Would you expand some more about the different types of mentoring?
I think there is deliberate mentoring. So for instance, the programme that EC-OG sponsored today with the Future of the North East, it’s a deliberate act of mentoring, you’re going into a group of young people and you’re basically intervening in their career decisions and their career journey and saying ‘Actually you can do this’, ‘with our support you can achieve this and this’. So there is that kind of mentoring which I didn’t benefit from very much when I started out as a young engineer.
Then, there is the internal kind of mentoring which you have within the organisation which I’ve had a bit of where you’ve got a manager or someone in a senior position in an organisation who takes you on as somebody that they are mentoring. You become their mentee. They guide you, help you navigate the organisation. This is who you need to talk to, this is the network that you need to build. This is how you get a promotion, this is what you need to do and so on.
Finally, you’ve also got external mentoring where you’re maybe not looking within an organisation anymore for a mentor. You’re actually looking for a role model who has experienced the things that you want to experience and so you’re looking for a subject matter expert to build a relationship with and they don’t be within your organisation. I think that’s the sort of different types of mentoring.
Ok. It’s interesting because normally we don’t hear the different types of mentoring. When we hear mentoring, it’s the word mentoring itself and that’s it, which I guess leads onto my question about describing the process of mentoring and how you experience and what you get from it.
For me, as an intern within EC-OG, I’ve picked 5 words which I think really describe how I felt the experience was for me. The 5 words are inspiring, encouraging, freedom, positivity and fast-paced. So that last one there, fast-paced really focuses on the fact that learning, for me at least, is not fun unless it is fast-paced. There is something happening and you can learn from the change that’s happening in the organisation and you’ve got people who can help you and work alongside you, really guide you to be able to really get the most from a situation and learn from it and develop.
So my question to you is, would you be able to do a similar sort of thing and choose 5 words that explain your situation and your experience of mentoring?
Yeah, absolutely. I think the 5 words you picked are absolutely spot on for where you are in your career and where I was a while ago. I think now when I look at my mentoring journey, it’s probably ‘Relationship Building with an Expert’. And I think that’s sort of where I am right now and who knows, it’s a cyclical journey. In a few years, I might go back to the inspiring, encouraging and positivity but for where I am right now, the mentoring is really about building a relationship, building trust in someone who is an expert and taking that relationship forward and growing from it.
Excellent, yeah. I agree with that and I like how you’ve taken the 5 words and put them into a sort of sentence rather than taking my words on their own. My next question is about the future and how mentoring really fits into the Aberdeen environment. So thinking to the future, is mentoring going to be a cyclical process? Do you think that mentoring is going to be something that we continue to do? Is it still going to be important and why is it important?
Yeah, I think it’s a great question especially with obviously the recent oil and gas downturn in Aberdeen. And I think like we already mentioned before, the different types of mentoring and a lot is being done at the moment to engage young talent and inject more innovation into companies across the board in Aberdeen.
But I think that the early stage intervention, you know when people are young graduates or still at school, is really really important because it gives them a clear idea of what they can achieve. I think that if it’s more diverse and more flexible then people can see all the opportunities for them in terms of their career.
Further down the line, we also have to be ready to mentor young employees in an organisation who have now come into the workforce and are looking around thinking, ‘Is there anyone like me doing well here?’. Because for me that was something that really shaped where I am today. Looking around in an organisation and thinking well I don’t really see anybody like me doing well and sometimes it’s subconscious. But it does register in your mind and you start to think well, ‘Should I turn left or should I turn right?’, ‘Am I going to be ok?’ And further along in your career you know, even when you are 10 or even 20 years in the industry.
If you want to do something different, it might be that you need a different kind of mentoring. You need to speak to someone who is an expert in a certain field. If you’re building a business you might need to speak to someone who has gone international with their business, gone global, someone who has done partnerships across the world. And that’s a different kind of mentoring. I think mentoring is definitely something that can go on throughout your career and it can come back again.
We are all learning. And I don’t think that I will ever reach a point where I say, ‘I don’t need a mentor, I’m good to go’. I think I’ll always need that expert in my life to share ideas and grow from’
Great, well I think that’s a really nice end for the topic of mentoring. I think it really nicely concluded our conversation and rounded things off in a positive way. I guess we always have to be positive!
Thank you for joining us today on this podcast about the next generation of mentoring.